The damage caused by September’s Hurricane Sally accelerated Gulf Power’s plans to modernize its last remaining Florida coal plant, Plant Crist in Escambia County, by converting it to run 100 percent on natural gas. The conversion is underway and slated to be completed by the end of the year, according to Senior Communications Specialist Kimberly Blair.
Earlier this week Gulf Power notified the Florida Public Service Commission (FPSC) that the company would retire the plant’s coal assets early.
“Retiring coal at Plant Crist will end our use of coal in Florida and help usher in a new, cleaner energy era for Gulf Power,” said Marlene Santos, president of Gulf Power. “Ending our use of coal delivers benefits for our customers and our communities through lower costs along with cleaner emissions. We look forward to continuing to invest in cleaner energy solutions for Northwest Florida, including more efficient natural gas technology as well as emissions-free solar farms.”
According to Gulf Power, in addition to converting coal-burning units to natural gas, four new, highly efficient combustion turbines and a new natural gas pipeline will be part of the Plant Crist modernization efforts.
“Eliminating the use of coal at Plant Crist, Gulf Power will reduce the plant’s carbon emissions rate by 40 percent – the equivalent to taking an estimated 297,000 cars off the road annually,” the company said, adding the conversion will also reduce operating costs for customers.
Gulf Power officials said Hurricane Sally caused damage to the plant’s coal equipment and the company determined it was in the best interests of its customers to accelerate the modernization instead of repairing the coal equipment.
Gulf Power also announced it filed a petition with the FPSC this week to begin recovery of storm restoration costs related to Hurricane Sally, which knocked out power to nearly 63 percent of customers and caused significant flooding and damage when it made landfall at the Alabama-Florida border on September 16.
“With today’s filings, Gulf Power is seeking approval to adjust the company’s Environmental Cost Recovery Clause (ECRC) factor for 2021 to reflect the savings associated with the early retirement of coal at Plant Crist and to begin recovering storm restoration costs for Sally. If approved by the FPSC, both adjustments to customer bills would likely take effect in March 2021 and result in a net decrease in the typical residential customer bill of $0.73,” Gulf Power reported.